Blog AnalysisPSDC crisis management

The OpsCenter on track: the main principles adopted on Monday. And some details...

(BRUSSELS2, exclusive) The EU operational center (OpsCenter) is not yet… operational. But, just to move the “schmilblick” forward, the foreign ministers of the European Union are adopting this Monday (January 23) the main principles which will govern the functioning of the OpsCenter. B2 was able to read his conclusions in advance. And also obtain other details on the establishment of this first military operations command center established in Brussels. The call for applications for the head of this OpsCenter has just been launched today, Friday (January 20), reflecting the desire of most Member States to move fairly quickly on this issue.

Coordination of three operations

The center will aim to coordinate all operations in the Horn of Africa. It will therefore not only be a matter of coordinating the military operation to train Somali soldiers in Uganda (EUTM Somalia) and the future operation to strengthen the maritime capacities of the countries of the Indian Ocean region and Africa. East (EUCAP Horn of Africa) but also to take care of the anti-piracy operation (EUNavfor Atalanta). Carrying out three operations simultaneously requires a “ reinforced level of coordination and interaction, particularly between civil and military actors state the Council's conclusions.

A variable role depending on the operations

It is for EuCap where the OpsCenter will play the main role: it will provide a “ direct support to the Civilian Operations Commander for the operational planning as well as for the conduct of the mission ". For EUTM Somalia, he will provide support to the Mission Commander and reinforce the “ strategic coordination between the mission and other actions » ; its role may also increase within the framework of the 3rd phase of EUTM (EUTM3) which is not expected to begin before the end of the year. For Operation Atalanta, the Ops Center's main mission will be to facilitate interaction; he will thus have the function of super liaison officer. The OpsCenter will also have transversal functions: “ strengthen civil and military synergies ", ensure the connection " between the different missions/operations and the (politico-diplomatic) structures of Brussels”.

In these different roles, the Commander of the Center will have a variable hierarchical relationship: he will thus be placed under the responsibility of the operation commander concerned: depending on the case, the head of EUTM Somalia (Irish Colonel Michael Beary), the commander of 'Atalanta (British Rear Admiral Duncan L. Potts) or the EU Civil Operations Commander (or CPCC, German diplomat Hansjörg Haber) for the EUCAP mission.

A decision still “to be written”

The decision establishing the operation, the hierarchical chain and the commander of the OpsCenter must still be written. It could not be prepared in time for the Foreign Affairs Council for various reasons, both practical and substantive. The fact that the Council of Ministers was brought forward by a week and the monopolization of the “external affairs” diplomats of the 27 (Relex group) by the Iranian file (see) prevented the text from being ready in time. It should also be noted that the first decision on the OpsCenter dated… It had not been updated since the creation of the CPCC – the EU Civil Operations Staff – and the EEAS – the diplomatic service European. Some preparatory work, “ more complex than it appears at first glance » as an expert in EU defense operations reports to B2, is therefore necessary. This decision should be approved subsequently, if necessary by written procedure.

The recruitment of the commander is launched 

The “27” (*) today launched the call for applications for the head of the OpsCenter. The initial proposal to see the center placed under the command of the EU Chief of Staff (currently General Van Osch) was refused by most member states who preferred to appoint a commander from within them. The various applications will be examined within the EU military committee which will then issue a recommendation. This recruitment could take place quickly; the opinion of the military committee is expected at the beginning of February.

Mixed staff

The OpsCenter should have around thirty people according to our information. Some agents will come from the EU military headquarters or member states. They are committed to providing the necessary personnel for this OpsCenter, much like they do for the establishment of an operations headquarters (OHQ). The organization of the OpsCenter should also be similar to a mini-OHQ, with a distribution of positions into J1, J2, J3, etc. Once proposed by their member states, the personnel will then be selected through panels.

Located within the EU General Staff

The OpsCenter should be located within the EU crisis management structures, “in Cortenberg”, thus co-located with the military headquarters and the civilian headquarters (CPCC) of the European Union. The problem is finding “a little space” for it, reports an expert on the matter. “ The place allocated to the OpsCenter » – which has not been operationally occupied for years – is “ now occupied by the Situation Room » from the European diplomatic service. You might have to tighten up a little...

(*) Note that the term 27 is chosen for convenience. Denmark does not participate in the planning and conduct of military operations.  

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).